Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Katsue Inoue I

Katsue Inoue


Cliff Parfit

I first met Katsue Inoue at her superb one man show in the art gallery of the Daimaru Store in Shimonoseki City. In Japan, art exhibitions are often held in the major department stores, and gallery-goers have the additional pleasure of being able to purchase any of the exhibits on the spot. Her works were all woodblock prints (what the Japanese call 'Sosaku Hanga') though most were so large that I marveled at her technical virtuosity.

The prints were mostly of flowers, and those which impressed me had a nostalgic, Art Nouveau atmosphere though, at the same time, many lively, modern touches. There were, in particular, some brilliant prints of poppies with long sinuous stems. It was impossible not to admire them, and yet I was conscious of the fact that there was hardly a suitable wall-space for such prints in my book-filled home, so my mind turned to ex libris, and I wondered whether the artist could make an ex libris with the power of those large prints. When I consulted her through the agency of Nobuko my wife, she was in some doubt about it; also she had never made an ex libris before. We had no time for a long discussion as she had to catch her plane back to Tokyo, but she kindly agreed to do her best, and in a few weeks I had a welcome call from the store to say that my ex libris plates were ready. The lettering in unfamiliar English script was not perfect, but the general impression was delightful, especially as many of them were hand-colored by the artist. Soon after, in 1982 she designed some more bookplates-this time with elegant lettering in Japanese and I had the pleasure of introducing a new artist of original talent to the ex libris world. Not that she was unknown as an artist, as she had been responsible for many exhibitions and had undertaken many important and difficult projects such as large murals for Buddhist temples and other historical buildings.

She had, however, proved her ability to adapt her powerful conceptions within the small space of an ex libris, and was soon to exhibit her plates in the exhibitions of the Nippon Ex Libris Association. Her ex libris were commissioned by people well known in Japanese society and in 1986 she brought out a boxed folio of fine ex libris in a limited edition. One of the plates, for Miss Michiko Nagai, the well known author, was of a Heian style woman with long straight hair and several voluminous kimonos. It seemed to have been printed from a large number of blocks and was proof that Katsue had the patience and technical skill to print such a complex and demanding plate. I immediately asked her to make me a similar plate with the image of Murasaki Shikibu the author of one of my favorite books (though in translation, as few Japanese even can read such very ancient Manyogana Script) the world's first novel, The Tale of Gengi.

It was some time before she was able to find the time for such a project, but one day the package arrived. Printed from ten blocks, it was superb in color scheme and design. It has always been one of my most popular plates but I was not at all keen to exchange it as the number printed was small.

Katsue Inoue II

Of course it had been very time-consuming in production and was of necessity, expensive. It is an entirely timeless plate which has been much admired over the years.

Katsue has been for many years a familiar figure at the congresses of the Japan Ex Libris Association and is recognized as one of the classic artists of the present age. There is no formula for her bookplates, they range widely from abstract designs to portraits, landscapes, seascapes, flower fantasies and anything that takes her fancy or is requested by her clients. A small selection of her considerable output of bookplates is presented here but, of course, in the life of such a well known artist, ex libris art must be a minor aspect of her busy life.

Katsue’s work are widely exhibited in Japan. Although, it must here be admitted that bookplates do not look their best in a gallery setting; there, large framed works dominate the eye. Bookplates come into their own in a private setting where one can sit comfortably and examine them closely and at leisure to enjoy the artist's elegant conceptions, the jewel-like precision of her technique and all the fine qualities of a fine artist-craftsperson at the peak of her skill.

It should here be mentioned that Katsue is admired and respected by her fellow artists. As long ago as 1981 she was elected a Director of Japan Itagain - the professional association of Japanese woodblock artists (which however, has one American member (though long resident in Japan) in the person of Mr. Clifton Karhu). The term Itaga refers to the skill of employing the grain of the wood in the design of woodblock prints.

Through this Association, Katsue often shows her work in group exhibitions which are perhaps more common here in cooperative, friendly Japan than in countries where artists have to make a lone bid for personal recognition. Here in Japan the traditional, painstaking processes involved in cutting and printing a plate connect modern woodblock artists, however tenuously, with the great artists of the past such as Utamaro and Hiroshige, though they worked in entirely different circumstances. Katsue is of course, an exponent of the Sosaku-Hanga process introduced into Japan by Kanae Yamamoto in the early years of the past century though in her paintings in ancient temples she follows a far older tradition. Sometimes the two traditions are fused as in my Murasaki Shikibu plate, but this was
clearly a serendipitous work of art, as with her wide experience of Heian art she is a brilliant interpreter of that high level of culture in ancient Japan which contrasts so vividly with the crude, largely illiterate society of contemporary Europe.

When my wife and I met Katsue on November 30th at the Amelia Gallery in Tokyo, she was dressed entirely in black enlivened with the glittering silver bracelets and rings she loves. Even her short cropped hair was black though now with a hint of silver here and there. We were surprised to find that in the whole exhibition every work was executed in black and white only. She explained to us that she has for some time been experimenting with black pigments and recognizes as many as seven different varieties of black in her work.

Katsue Inoue III

To my mind her work has become more cerebral and perhaps more serious but in her conversation she was the same woman we had always known, a littlesaddened by the death of fine fellow artists such as Mr. Yonejiro Sato, but still bubbling over with new projects and full of news of her work. We learned that in addition to her work on Buddhist temples, she undertakes large, demanding projects in the decoration of hotels and hospitals and that she is giving five days a month to lecturing at the Yomiuri Culture Center. I feel sure that her teaching and lecturing must be of great value as she is a born communicator whether visually in her art, or in her exciting and original ideas and conversation.

Again, I noted an Art Nouveau flavor in many of her images, but yet her work is still entirely up to the moment. We chatted a little about the empty rooms, piles of bricks, pickled sheep, unmade beds and tatty collages etc which pass as 'high art' at the present time but agreed that this kind of stuff was just a transient blip in the long and generally honorable history of art. One cannot but wonder how museums of the future will find lumber rooms big enough to hold all this junk.

The bookplates here illustrated are selected from the wide range of Katsue Inoue's work, some delicate and feminine and others bold and powerful, but as I have previously remarked, Japanese bookplates need to be seen in the originals perhaps more so than the plates of any other country. The choice of the paper (still made by hand in this country of mass production and robotization!) the delicate hand-coloring and the seven varieties of black can be perceived only by the human eye at quite close quarters. An illustration, even in color, can never quite do justice to the original work.

I had some difficulty in following her description of the infinite care and trouble she takes in preparing the black pigments in which she prints her work and her reasons for going to so much trouble. As I listened I was reminded forcibly of the painters of the Renaissance laboriously grinding their lapis lazuli and other mineral products to make those gorgeous colors which no modern paint manufacturer could hope to emulate. Yet this is still part and parcel of Japanese art - - the patient effort to achieve exactly what lives in the mind's eye of the artist.

Though in her active and busy artistic life bookplates can command only a small portion of her attention, I still regard her as one of the outstanding ex libris artists of the present generation.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Two Leipzig Bookplates I



Irene Lawford-Hinrichsen

The Background

Every bookplate has a story to tell; but not many of those stories will recount the horrendous series of tragedies represented by the two examples shown here. They were created as presents from my grandfather, Geheimrat Dr. Henri Hinrichsen, to my grandmother, Martha Hinrichsen and to their third son, my uncle, Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen. The huge cumulative sorrow, which these bookplates carry, is a small part of the much greater tragedy, which we all know of as the Holocaust.

Henri Hinrichsen (born in Hamburg in 1868) was the proprietor of the famous music publishing company of C.F. Peters, Leipzig (founded in December 1800). He had entered the company, which belonged to his uncle, Dr. Max Abraham, in 1887 at the age of 19, becoming his uncle's partner in 1894. On Dr. Abraham's death in 1900, my grandfather became sole proprietor. The business thrived and prospered under his careful guidance. With the profits, he became a most generous benefactor to many Leipzig institutions, musicians and individuals. He was a respected member of the town council and on the committees of several worthy institutions, as well as supporting many other organizations. In 1911, he became the founding benefactor of the first All Women's College in Germany - the Henriette Goldschmidt Schule - which he continued to fund for over twenty years. He carried all the financial costs of staffing and of new acquisitions for the Peters Music Library, which Dr. Abraham had presented to Leipzig in 1894. He himself donated the collection of 2,600 musical instruments, which formed the Musical Instruments Museum, to Leipzig in 1926. For all his generous benefactions in the cause of education and for the promotion of German music, my grandfather was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Leipzig University in 1929.

Meanwhile, in 1898 he had married Martha Bendix from Berlin. This happy marriage produced seven children over the course of the next twenty years - five sons and two daughters. In due course, the three eldest sons: Max (who eventually became my father), Walter and the aforementioned Hans-Joachim joined the business.

Apart from being a music publisher, Henri Hinrichsen was a great book-lover. He was one of the founding members of the Leipzig Bibliophiles Association in 1904, a group of 99 gentlemen (no ladies admitted) who called themselves "the Ninetyniners". They were all connected with the book and printing trades; amongst their members were book publishers, music publishers, printers, book designers, graphic artists, paper merchants, book dealers, writers, editors, etc. Many of these were amongst my grandfather's closest friends. One of these, the graphic artist Professor Hugo Steiner-Prag, was always a welcome guest in my grandparents' home; it was he whom my grandfather commissioned to design a bookplate for my grandmother's 50th birthday, in 1929.

The Design of Martha Hinrichsen's bookplate

The bookplate is engraved and printed in redish-sepia colour on good quality, heavy cream coloured paper. Size: 10cms x 14.5cms. Signed in pencil by the artist. The design is very allegorical, but sadly there is nobody alive to tell me exactly what it means. I think that the trees bending towards each refer to the great love between my grandparents. The seven intertwining branches of the trees probably signify that their union produced seven children. The Janus-effect portraits do not depict Martha and Henri Hinrichsen.

Two Leipzig Bookplates II

The Designer: Hugo Steiner-Prag

Hugo Steiner-Prag was a famous graphic artist, book illustrator and stage designer during the first half of the 20th century. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1880 as Hugo Steiner, he added the "Prag" to his name later. From 1907 onwards he taught at the Academy for Graphic Arts and Book Design in Leipzig, where he became Professor in 1910. He worked for many publishers and was the Art Director of the Propyläen Publishing Company and organizer of the IBA (International Book Artists) Exhibition in 1927. He also organized the exhibition for the centenary of Goethe's death: "Goethe in the Book Art of the World" in 1932. As a Jew, Hugo Steiner-Prag was dismissed from his post when the Nazis came to power in 1933. He returned home to Czechoslovakia, but when the Germans invaded his country he fled to the USA. He never returned to Europe, dying in New York in 1945.

The Design of Dr Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen's Bookplate

This was probably created in 1930, for Hans-Joachim's 21st birthday. It is a reproduction of a photograph taken around 1915, printed in sepia on cream coloured paper. Size: 10cms x 7cms. It shows the house: 10 Tal Strasse in Leipzig, which was the business premises of the Music Publishing Company - Musikverlag C.F. Peters, and also the home of the Hinrichsen family. Otto Brückewald, the architect who also designed Wagner's Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, designed the house. Commissioned by Dr. Max Abraham in 1873 the company moved in, in August 1874. In 1905 Henri Hinrichsen added an elegant looking new warehouse (the two-story building on the left), designed by another fine architect, Clemens Thieme. The flat roof became a beautiful roof garden. At that time the house was also modernized and refurbished, when central heating was installed (electric light having been in place since 1896).

The Tragedy

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Hugo Steiner-Prag was not the only one to be affected. The Hinrichsen family was also Jewish. Descended from Sephardic Jews, my grandfather had always been proud of his family having been German citizens for almost 300 years. As an important citizen of Leipzig he did not think that the horrors perpetrated by his fatherland would be directed against himself and his family. In 1938 the music publishing business was confiscated and "aryanized" - sold to a suitably qualified non-Jew; grandfather never received a penny. The house was also confiscated from him and he had to give up his keys. His entire family was persecuted; fourteen close members were transported and died in various concentration camps. My grandparents managed to escape to Brussels in 1940, where Hans-Joachim joined them some six weeks later. When the Germans invaded Belgium my elderly grandparents had nowhere else to go and were awaiting a visa to immigrate to the USA. Hans-Joachim escaped to France, where the Gestapo caught him and imprisoned him in Perpignan; he died there a few weeks later, aged 31. My grandmother, who suffered from Diabetes, was dependent upon insulin; as a Jew, she was not permitted to have any. She died in Brussels in 1941. It was probably a blessing, because in 1942 my 74 year-old grandfather, Dr. Henri Hinrichsen, was transported to Auschwitz where, on arrival, he was taken on a lorry with all others over 50, to be gassed in Birkenau. In 1943 my grandparents' younger son, my uncle Paul, was also gassed in Auschwitz. Like Hans-Joachim, he was 31. The same fate awaited their daughter, my aunt Ilse's family - her husband, Dr. Ludwig Frankenthal along with their two little sons were gassed, whilst Ilse, incredibly survived the horrors of five concentration camps.

Two Leipzig Bookplates III

The Aftermath

The house and business were restored to the Hinrichsen family in 1945, only to be confiscated once again, by the Russians, a few weeks later. They went into State Ownership (VEB) by the new German Democratic Republic. Finally restored again to the family in 1992, the house, which had not been repaired or refurbished for over 70 years, was in a terrible condition. I saw it for the first time in 1991, when parts of it were still habitable and in use by the company of C.F. Peters. It was sold to an investor - an Egyptian plastic surgeon living in Munich, who then neglected it for a further 10 years, during which time it was also vandalized. It is (in 2002) empty, boarded up and almost totally dilapidated. It will hopefully be restored soon.

Discovering the Bookplates

I first became aware of the existence of the bookplates in 1993, following a communication from the State and University Library of Bremen. The Librarian had become aware of the fact that there were many stolen books in their library. These had come into their possession in 1941. My grandparents had been permitted - on payment of huge taxes - to pack their non-valuable possessions for dispatch overseas - all valuables had been confiscated. The ten large packing cases, containing all that they had left in the world, were in the dockyards in Bremen. In 1941 the Gestapo confiscated them and put all the contents up for sale in a "Juden Auktion" - "Jews Auction" for the benefit of the State coffers; amongst the contents were about 200 books. The Bremen Library acquired some of these. After 50 years 30 books could be positively identified as having belonged to Martha and Henri Hinrichsen and their son Hans-Joachim; a few of these contained the bookplates described above. The books are now in my possession. (If anybody ever acquires any book embellished with either of these bookplates, the books are stolen property and rightfully belong to my family.)

The History

For those interested, I would recommend my book, which has had excellent reviews:
MUSIC PUBLISHING AND PATRONAGE - C.F. Peters: 1800 to the Holocaust. Written by Irene Lawford-Hinrichsen, the Foreword is by Yehudi Menuhin. This is not a dry company history, but a wealth of real life, never before published, stories of musicians, music publishing, musical taste and the social and political scene. Please see my web site for full details: www.btinternet.com/~irene.lawford

Published by Edition Press in 2000. ISBN 0-9536112-0-5.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Bookplates of Lionel Pries I

The Bookplates of Lionel Pries


Jeffrey Karl Ochsner

Lionel Henry ("Spike") Pries (1897-1968) is today remembered primarily as an inspirational architectural teacher at the University of Washington from the 1920s to the 1950s. However, Pries's entry in Who's Who in Northwest Art, published in 1941, indicates the breadth of his activities in the 1930s and 1940s, when he was a practicing architect, an exhibiting artist, and a recognized collector of a wide range of art objects, as well as a university professor. In this period, in addition to his teaching and his architectural practice, Pries produced and exhibited watercolors and oils; he made drypoint prints, which he gave to clients, friends and students; and he produced a variety of graphic items including a series of bookplates.

Lionel Pries was born and raised in the Bay Area of California in the era when the influence of the Arts & Crafts Movement was at its height. Although Pries's professional career did not begin until the 1920s, after the Arts & Crafts Movement had faded, Pries remained interested in the decorative arts throughout his life. His engagement with the decorative arts is nowhere better demonstrated than in his fascination with fine lettering and graphic design. Pries had a small collection of late Medieval illuminated manuscript pages and several examples of eighteenth century indentures, as well as books about lettering, printing and book design. His interests, however, extended beyond collecting and appreciation; throughout his life he designed bookplates, Christmas cards, and occasionally announcements or invitations.

The bookplates Pries designed for himself are generally autobiographical in character. His first bookplate, designed while he was a student in the architecture program at the University of California, Berkeley, shows two robed female figures sitting in front of a classical exedra in a garden, and likely reflects the influence of classicism in shaping the Beaux-Arts curriculum of the school. This bookplate is found in only twelve of the roughly 900 books that survive in the Pries collection at the University of Washington. Pries used this bookplate until 1920, but gave it up once he moved to Philadelphia and entered the University of Pennsylvania graduate program in architecture. For the next decade, he did not have a printed bookplate; instead he signed.

The Bookplates of Lionel Pries, II

In December 1923 Pries acquired Sallie B. Tannahill's P's and Q's: A Book on the Art of Letter Arrangement (1923), and in 1927 he acquired Richard Braungart's Das moderne deutsche Gebrauchs-exlibris… (1922), addressing contemporary German bookplates, but it was not until the 1930s that Pries again engaged in bookplate design. Initially he created a bookplate of rather traditional character-it shows a figure planting a tree, and may reflect Pries's knowledge of traditional European bookplates. However, he used this in only two books, and apparently abandoned it almost immediately in favor of the bookplates he used from the mid 1930s to the mid 1950s.

By the mid-1930s Pries had created four bookplates, each of which represented one of his interests. The first shows a small male figure with two large watercolor brushes-Pries primarily used this in books about art and artists. Pries apparently designed this bookplate for his university colleague Henry Olschewsky, but then decided to use it himself. (A large pencil sketch of this design (7-1/2" x 7-1/4"), with Olschewsky's name, not Pries's, survives in the Pries drawing collection at the UW Libraries.) From the late 1920s to the 1940s, Pries spent part of each summer in Mexico and he collected pre-Columbian artifacts. His second bookplate of these years shows a pre-Columbian carving; this bookplate is found primarily in his books on indigenous art and archaeology. Pries's third bookplate shows a reclining figure, possibly an angel. Pries used this plate most often in books on gothic architecture, religious art and similar subjects. The last, showing a classical structure with a stairway, was likely intended for architecture books. Pries may have intended each of the bookplates only for a single category of books, but over the next decade and a half, he was not entirely consistent in their use.

The Bookplates of Lionel Pries III

When Pries decided to create a new bookplate after 1945, he apparently studied multiple alternatives. He pasted these studies (and possibly some studies of earlier bookplates he had never used) on two pages of his "scrapbook"-these pages show the breadth of Pries's imagination, as well as his exploration of several bookplate designs reflecting a more modern graphic language. Pries selected one bookplate from this group and used it exclusively after 1950. It shows an Asian figure, identified by Richard Mellott (former curator at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum) as an attendant of the Buddha. It is the only one of his bookplates to dispense with the traditional "ex libris…," using instead the phrase "from the library of…" Unlike his earlier bookplates it was printed in red. The figure reflects Pries's post-1945 interest in collecting Asian (especially Japanese) arts and crafts objects.

Pries created cards and similar graphic works throughout his life. It seems likely that he created bookplates for friends and colleagues, but only one such design has been confirmed. In 1944, Pries designed a bookplate for University of Washington Professor Blanche Payne (1897-1972), who taught historic costume and apparel design in the School of Home Economics from 1927 to 1966.

The bulk of Pries's personal book collection was donated (by Pries's heir Robert Winskill) to the University of Washington in the 1990s, and that is the primary basis for our knowledge of his bookplates. A small collection of Pries's rare books was sold at auction, and Pries bookplates are now occasionally mentioned on-line in connection with books for sale by antiquarian and rare booksellers.